Online dating can be a great place to meet new people from all around the world, but it's also a good place to meet people who are pretending to be other people. Not all people with fake profiles set out to scam people; some simply aren't comfortable being themselves so they create a fake profile. Spot these fake profiles quickly so you don't get sucked into conversation with someone who doesn't actually exist.
A quick glance at a profile can reveal a lot right off the bat. Always keep in mind if a profile looks too good to be true (like a drop-dead gorgeous foreign dignitary who wants to find someone to sail around the world on his or her dime), then it likely is.
Lack of Photos
If the profile only has one or a couple photos -- or if the photos that are there look as if they could easily be stock photos (generic photos of people smiling at the camera) -- this can be a tipoff this profile isn't a real person. Stealing photos from people's social media isn't difficult, so an abundance of photos doesn't guarantee a real profile either; however, a lack of photos or one or two generic photos can point toward a fake profile.
Lack of Information
A profile with a photo or two and just the bare minimum of information supplied may have been set up by someone not necessarily eager to put their best foot forward who instead just wants to get a profile up so they can start messaging people. It's a sign of someone who is either pretending to be someone they aren't or of a person who can't be bothered to put any effort into actually meeting someone.
Check the Photo
A trick popularized on MTV's Catfish show is to click and drag the photo into a Google image search. This will reveal any other websites featuring the same image. If it appears on other websites, pay attention to the details.
- Does it appear on a commercial website as a stock photo? If so, it's likely it was copied to use for the dating profile.
- Does it appear on social media profiles under a different name? If so, the dating profile owner may have copied the photo from the social media page.
Check Social Media Profiles
Search on social media for the same name as the profile. If the dating profile is fake, you may not find any social media profile matches. Check on more than one platform; some people simply prefer to stay off certain sites. If you do find matching social media profiles, check to see how long the profile has been active and how many friends or connections the person has. A brand-new social media profile with very few friends can indicate the profile was set up with the intent of creating a persona across different platforms.
Some profiles online were created by people but manned by bots; any conversation you have with them will feel a little off and stilted because a computer program is tasked with talking to you. If you find yourself in a chat with someone from a dating website that seems strange, it may be because you're chatting with a computer program.
Another way to tell in conversation will be if it feels as if you're getting generic messages that could easily be sent to more than one person without alterations; this might indicate a person who is chatting with a wide variety of people from a created persona instead of actually looking for one person with whom to connect. So if messages don't evolve past things like, "Good morning - go make today the best day!" or other potentially generic messages, there's a chance you're dealing with someone who created a fake profile to talk with as many people as possible - perhaps to scam them or ask for money.
Scam or Shy?
Some people go to dating websites with the intent of scamming other members by making a fake profile and pretending to be someone they're not. These scammers reel people into an online relationship and then start bringing up the idea of needing money to come visit them, or how they desperately need some money to pay the rent or whatever other emergency they come up with. Other people want to portray someone other than themselves because they aren't thrilled with who they really are. In fact, eHarmony estimates more than half of online dating profiles contain some lies. Don't take online profiles for face value and if you start to develop feelings and want a relationship, insist upon a video chat or something similar to verify a person's identity.